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Runic Dictionary

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Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson (Ólsv)

13th century; volume 3; ed. R. D. Fulk;

4. Love poem (Love) - 3

It is possible that Óláfr (Ólsv) was a nephew of the poet Játgeirr Torfason (SnE 1848-87, III, 681; SkP II, 652). In Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 279) he is identified as a poet attached to the court of King Hákon Hákonarson (r. 1217-63; see SkP II, lxxxi-lxxxii). His nickname svartaskáld ‘Black Skald’ no doubt was employed to distinguish him from his contemporary at Hákon’s court, Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv; see SkP II, 656), and presumably it indicates that he had dark hair. He plays a role in a narrative in Sturlunga saga (ch. 228) set in the period 1230-1 (see Stu 1988, I, 329-30). According to that saga, he was a poor man who was in the company of Snorri Sturluson’s son, Jón murtr ‘Roach’, in Bergen in 1231. During a drunken brawl he dealt Jón an axe-blow that led to Jón’s death. Óláfr managed to escape the scene of the crime under the cover of darkness and he was not punished. He is not mentioned again in any literary source. The remains of his poetry are almost all fragmentary: these include what appear to be drápur dedicated to King Hákon (Hákdr), to Christ (Kristdr), and to the Norwegian Skúli jarl Bárðarson (1189-1240) (Skúldr), as well as a love poem (Love); the one complete work is a lone lausavísa.

Love poem — Ólsv LoveIII

Kari Ellen Gade 2017, ‘ Óláfr svartaskáld Leggsson, Love poem’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 316. <> (accessed 20 May 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Óláfr Leggsson, svartaskáld: 4. Af et kærlighedsdigt (?) (AII, 85, BII, 97)

in texts: Gramm, LaufE, SnE, SnEW, TGT

SkP info: III, 316

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


The three fragments edited below (Ólsv Love) appear to belong to the genre of love poetry, and Finnur Jónsson (Skj) tentatively assigns the first two to et kærlighedsdigt ‘a love poem’, as does Kock in Skald (Kärleksdikt ‘Love poem’). There is no evidence that these were parts of a longer poem (or poems), however, and they could equally well belong to freestanding lausavísur. The first fragment, which is transmitted in mss A (main ms.), W and B of TGT, consists of one line only, and the lack of double alliteration and the aðalhending show that it is an even line and not an odd line. The second couplet is recorded in Orms-Eddu-brot (W, main ms.) and in the Y redaction of LaufE (mss 2368ˣ, 743ˣ). Both fragments are attributed to Óláfr Leggsson in all mss. The third half-stanza, which is found in mss A (main ms.) and W of TGT, is also attributed to ‘Óláfr’, but his patronymic is not given (TGT 1927, 60: sem Óláfr kvað ‘as Óláfr said’). Earlier editors (Björn Magnússon Ólsen, TGT 1884, 198; Finnur Jónsson, Skj; Kock, Skald), identified this Óláfr as Óláfr hvítaskáld ‘White Skald’ Þórðarson (Ólhv), the author of TGT. However, as Wills (2006, 1057) has shown, the helmingr is more plausibly attributed to Óláfr Leggsson, a contemporary of Óláfr Þórðarson, and hence it has been edited here as a fragment composed by him.
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